Check out Sandy's ongoing Patriot-News special travel features. Go to www.PennLive.com/travel - look for "Fenton's Favorites."
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7TH, 11AM-12PM - "SKIING THE POCONO MOUNTAINS" Once the weather turns cold, skiers and travelers from all over the mid-Atlantic flock to the six different ski areas, with over 150 ski trails, in the Pocono Mountains. Although it's not just about skiing anymore, kids of all ages want to hit the slopes - but they want to go snowboarding, tubing and racing. Terrain parks , big air bags and night skiing are also super popular with the ski areas. Barb Green, President of Blue Mountain Resort and President of the Pennsylvania Ski Area Resorts (PSAR) will join Carl Wilgus , CEO of Pocono Mountains Tourism and me in the "Let's Talk Travel with AAA" studios Saturday at 11am on News Radio WHP580. The Pocono Mountains become a winter wonderland offering more activities than you can imagine on over 2,400 square miles of rolling mountain terrain and thriving woodlands. From skiing, tobogganing, skating, dog-sledding and ice -fishing to popular festivals, luxury spas , designer shopping and entertainment…there's something for everyone. For learn-to-ski programs, stay and ski overnight packages and up-to-date weather reports go to www.800poconos.com.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 14TH, 11AM-12PM - "IS A CAREER AT SEA FOR YOU?" Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live and work onboard a cruise ship? Traveling the globe and meeting guests from every walk of life. Sailing all seven seas and visiting some of the world's most exotic places while cruising in comfort aboard a luxury ocean liner. Sounds pretty glamorous…or is it? Is this something you may want to do? What's it really like? Frankie Verroca from Steelton, PA (yes - right in our backyard) has worked for Princess Cruises as a Deputy Cruise Director since 1992 and he'll be in the studios with me Saturday from 11am to 12p.m. on "Let's Talk Travel with AAA" on News Radio WHP580. I first met Frankie during a June 2005 Northern European cruise aboard the Golden Princess. We became instant friends and have kept in touch ever since. Verroca's favorite itinerary is the world cruise - where guests circumnavigate the globe from 90-105 days. His passion is "show-business and people-business" - and he does it all - acting, entertainment and hospitality. If you've ever tuned in to his popular in-cabin "Frankie Talks" daily shows - you'll be laughing-out-loud while getting your daily information at sea. The cruise industry has changed so much since Verroca began and he'll be here to give us the insider scoop on the highs, lows and adventures of living and working onboard a cruise ship.
Listen To Past Shows:
TO LISTEN TO FUTURE SHOWS, CHECK OUT THE LET'S TALK TRAVEL PODCAST PAGE! CLICK HERE
**Beginning Saturday, October 5th "Let's Talk Travel with AAA" will be on from 11am-12pm.**
As a frequent cruiser, with over 100 sailings under my belt, I've always known that the ships captain is the boss. The top dog. The Master. And of course, that is absolutely true. The captain is… The Captain. He (or she) is responsible for the overall safety and well being of all guests and crew members onboard the vessel he (or she) is commanding.
But what I keep learning, over and over again, is the entire hotel operation and daily onboard ship experience - meaning everything you see and everything you do - is under the skillful eye of the ship's Hotel Director.
I was recently sailing to Bermuda aboard Celebrity Cruises "Summit" and had the opportunity to spend time with Darren Tiller, Hotel Director.
Born in England , Darren began his hotelier career at a young age helping his parents run a small hotel in Oxfordshire. He quickly became hooked and started with Trusthouse Forte Hotels before working in the Caribbean for Westin, Raffles and Sandals Resorts. After returning to the UK for his Masters Degree in Tourism and Hospitality he served as Hotel Operations at the world renown Westbury Hotel in Mayfair, London.
Q - How did you go from running land-based hotels to cruise ships?
A - A friend worked for Celebrity and kept telling me how much he liked living and working at sea - and that I should try it. So I did. I applied online and kept at it. I wasn't getting any responses (but would contact Celebrity at least once a week) and then after a month, I got "the call" and flew to Miami. During my last interview of the day I was told I had the job and within a few weeks became the Associate Hotel Director on Celebrity's "Constellation". That was in 2010 and it's gone by in a flash.
Q - Is it very different running a cruise ship compared to a land-based hotel?
A - Totally. It can be very challenging. On a ship you must be prepared for everything and anything and have access to all types of inventory - plus the constant changing of crew members, due to their individual contracts. You must be 110% organized and prepared. On land, if something is needed, you go down the street and buy it - not as easy on a ship.
Q - What are your top three responsibilities/priorities?
A - #1 - An excellent guest experience for all guests and throughout all departments on the ship. #2. - Making sure all crew is trained properly and giving them the tools to deliver excellence within their specific roles. #3. - A friendly and open culture for all crew members. A happy, confident and well-trained crew equals a happy cruise experience for everyone onboard a ship.
Q - Do you have any ports-of-call that are your favorites?
A - I do, but it's tough not finding something wonderful about all the places we visit. I really like Sydney, Australia ; Venice, Italy ; Alaska and like you Sandy, I think Bermuda is very special and always beautiful. I never get tired of sailing in and out of Bermuda.
Celebrity Cruises "Summit" will begin regularly scheduled sailings roundtrip from Bayonne, New Jersey to Bermuda May through September 2014. The only premium ship with regular service to Bermuda, Celebrity is a terrific choice for an upscale onboard experience with an emphasis on excellent dining , award-winning AquaSpa , attentive service and modern luxury. Be sure to ask your AAA cruise expert about all 2014 special promotions and AAA group sailings.
Over the past few years, "girlfriend getaways" have exploded in popularity and I am constantly bombarded with inquiries.
Why are these female-only vacations so popular?
Women realize how important and therapeutic it is to be accepted, comforted and encouraged by loyal girlfriends. We talk about everything. We eat, we drink, we get spoiled and we return home feeling renewed.
Here are a few of my favorite girlfriend getaway destinations :
I recently returned home from a 7 day laugh-out-loud and seamless Western Caribbean sailing onboard "Princess Ruby". It was pampering and seamless from beginning to end - all we had to do was unpack and unwind. We flew roundtrip from HIA to Ft. Lauderdale and for one week we island hopped in total comfort. I chose Princess for this particular sailing because she has all the bells and whistles of a large ship - including excellent dining venues (Sabatini's and Crown Grill exceeded my expectations) , a wide variety of pampering services in the Lotus Spa and privacy at The Sanctuary, an adult-only haven for total relaxation. A premium cruise line, Princess Ruby was also a fantastic value for the dollar. (www.princess.com)
If it's all-inclusive, ultra luxury you want, on smaller vessels without the lines and crowds - you will never be disappointed onboard Seabourn (www.seabourn.com) ; Silversea (www.silverseacruises.com) or Regent Seven Seas Cruises (www.rssc.com). There has never been a better time to take advantage of a ultra-luxury cruise. If you think it's too expensive, think again. Don't make a decision until you compare the luxury lines with the premium or mass-market ships. You may surprise yourself and remember - everything is included. You and your girlfriends will be spoiled beyond belief from the moment you step onboard one of these dreamy cruise ships.
*Close to home.
Just hop onboard Amtrak's Keystone service from Harrisburg or Lancaster and plan a luxury getaway to the City of Brotherly Love. One of my all-time favorite walking cities - Philadelphia overflows with restaurants, shops, public art, museums…and history. Lots and lots of American history. And as far as luxury goes, what's not to love about the ultra-chic Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons AAA five-diamond award winning hotels. Both properties offer fine dining, award-winning spas (deep tissue massages at Richel D'Ambra Spa ( Ritz-Carlton) are coma-like) and lively lounge areas for specialty cocktails. (www.ritzcarlton.com) ; (www.fourseasons.com)
Nestled in the Pocono Mountains, The Lodge at Woodloch, is an outstanding AAA four-diamond spa resort. If you are looking for total rejuvenation in a gracious setting - you've found it. This is a "serious" spa, complete with every service imaginable and only serving organic (and delicious) "superfoods" in the lodge's restaurant, "Tree", overlooking the nearby treetops and offering lake views. (www.thelodgeatwoodloch.com)
Another AAA four-diamond property that I love is the Omni Bedford Springs Resort. This historic spa and golf resort began more than 200-years ago when eight mineral springs were discovered and proclaimed a fountain of youth and good health. The oh-so-pretty bedrooms and beautifully restored lobby area, indoor pool and outdoor fire pits specialize in girlfriend getaways. (www.omni.com)
We are so fortunate to have the beautiful Hotel Hershey in our backyard. Since 1933, The Hotel Hershey (AAA Four-Diamond) has set the standard as an elegant destination resort featuring the fabulous Chocolate Spa, world-class dining, live entertainment at the Hershey Theater, glorious gardens and the excitement of Hersheypark. Book one of the cottages, perfect for a group of girlfriends. (www.hotelhershey.com)
Captain Ron Neilsen, a former commercial airline pilot and best selling author of THE FEARLESS FLIGHTKIT-REMEDY FOR A FEARFUL FLYER joins us again to help people overcome their fear of flying.
In this video, Captain Ron shows me and demonstrates a new device, The Fearless Flight Harmonizer that travelers can use when flying to help ease their nerves.
To learn more visit www.fearlessflight.com
Q - I want to suprise my wife with a ultra-luxury cruise on a small ship without kids and massive crowds. What do you recommend?
A - I recommend Seabourn.
With six vessels to choose from, ranging from just 104 suites or 225 suites, Seabourn looks (and feels) like a luxurious private club.
The moment you step onboard your intimate Seabourn ship and are greeted with a warm smile and delicious ice-cold champagne - you will feel the indulgence and pampering. It is a world all on its own.
If unique itineraries and gourmet dining is important to you, then you're in luck. Seabourn sails to the world's must-see cities and hidden off-the-path gems and the dining rivals the best restaurants I've ever experienced.
As I write this column, I am onboard the stunning Seabourn "Quest" anchored in the Carribean's posh port of St. Barts. I may not go ashore. Why would anyone want to get off this ship... it is perfect. The attention to detail, the gracious service and the spacious, all-suite accommodations are just the tip of the iceberg.
Seabourn is an all-inclusive cruise line with open bars throughout the ship, a in-suite refriderator stocked with your favorite beverages and fine wines poured at lunch and dinner.
The well-traveled onboard guests are mostly past passengers and several first-time cruisers with the average age on our Caribbean voyage at 50-55.
The clientelle are well-heeled and well-dressed but not stuffy or formal. The atmosphere is polite and friendly.
Over the years I have cruised onboard the smaller Seabourn ships, and loved every moment. But in my opinion, Seabourn's "Quest" takes the cake. An incredible amount of space per guest, more signature restaurants, open bars and lounges and the very popular "Seabourn Square" featuring a specialty coffee bar, library and computer center.
If you're looking for a ultra-luxurious adult oriented cruise vacation, Seabourn should be a terrific match for you.
Your AAA cruise expert will be able to tell you all about Seabourn's special savings and promotional fares for 2013/2014.